Tuesday, May 15, 2012

ALEC AKBAR. Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute at the Washington Times:
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin recently came under attack from left-wing activists for meeting with representatives of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nationwide association of conservative state legislators. This is but the latest salvo in a sustained attack on ALEC from the political left. The governor rightly has ignored the attacks, which really are efforts to stifle political speech.
Translation: About 30 people demonstrated on the sidewalk, and they weren't holding BREITBART IS HERE signs, so it's an "attack" -- indeed, a "salvo"! -- rather than Tea Party free speech.
ALEC’s critics paint it as a shadowy organization that pushes ready-made legislation to advance a corporate agenda. In reality... 
In reality, or at least grammatical reality, you would expect the author to address these charges next. But Smith isn't done crying victim:
...the attack on ALEC is part of a much broader attack by those seeking to drive all market voices from the marketplace of ideas. ALEC’s critics say they object to its tactics, but what they really seek to attack is its ideological principles: free markets and limited government.
And apple pie. Don't forget apple pie.

In the course of this short editorial, Smith uses the word "attack" eight times. By the end, he's stepped it up to "thuggery" and "strong-arm tactics." Yet as aficionados of the genre will have guessed, Smith cites in evidence nothing more thuggish than that small sidewalk protest. His other claims are even sillier. Get a load, and I do mean load, of this:
This effort to drive out pro-market voices is far more extensive than the attack on ALEC. Anti-business forces already have succeeded at excluding business experts from governmental policy advisory councils and imposing second-class status on them in academic journals. Any nonprofit political organization that receives business funding comes under constant attack - unless, that is, the funding is aimed at expanding the size and scope of government.
Smith doesn't bother to explain how the big bad lefties are "imposing second-class status" on "business experts" in "academic journals." Maybe some think-tank like ALEC or CEI tried to plant propaganda in some peer-reviewed publications, and they didn't go for it. "Constant attack" we can take to mean that somebody disagreed with them, out loud. Actually that's all any of it means.

I talk here from time to time about the insidiousness of propaganda, and how its practitioners are not just making bogus cases but also corrupting the language by the poisonous example of their obliviousness to meaning. Smith's effort is an especially clear example -- not fancied up by one of those bards of bullshit trained at Reason or the Wall Street Journal, but done straight to the template by someone too busy, uninterested, or incapable of normal human interaction to do anything else.

Smith may be as terrible a writer as he appears, but I wouldn't swear to it, because the sort of thing he's doing doesn't call for good writing -- it calls for its opposite. Good writing is supposed to clarify, and Smith's intention is to obfuscate.

He has a strong motivation to do so. Some folks besides the usual suspects have caught on to ALEC, and are reporting its true mission of muscling government to do the bidding of business (and lying about it). Even worse, this reporting has actually been heeded by audiences, causing businesses and politicians to disassociate themselves from ALEC.

Smith could have told us all that, but doing so would have invited readers to ask what's so unjust about the press accurately reporting what ALEC does, and ALEC affiliates deciding to quit the organization in consequence. They might then figure out that Smith's only real complaint is that his team suffers from it. So Smith just plays victim up and down the block -- which is still ridiculous, as both CEI and ALEC are well-connected and -funded wingnut welfare queens. But victim status, as has been obvious for decades, is the one reliable equity of modern conservative thought, and in the last ditch that's what they go with.

Besides, it's in the Washington Times -- it doesn't have to be too convincing. Sometimes you just gotta go through the motions. Don't cry, it's soft duty and the money's good!

Christ, I'm glad I'm not in that line of work.

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